It’s a Cold War: Fox Against the President

Sep 18, 09 | 7:54 AM   byMichael Wolff
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The president will do a series of interviews on Sunday with ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and Univision, culminating on Monday with an appearance as an exclusive guest on David Letterman. He is not, however, going on Fox News, and the network and many Republicans are spitting mad about this.

“If people are going to be on the Sunday talk shows, they should be on all of them,” said Joe Wilson, now a famous Republican heckler because of his famous heckle last week.

Several other Republican congressmen huffed similarly.

Fox itself is now preparing to roll out a drumbeat of umbrage about its exclusion.

Who believes this stuff? Are there actually people who think Fox and the Republicans have taken offense? I suppose there must be.

It is a face-off, an elemental one, but it is not about media time or fairness. It’s about who will bend first. It’s a power struggle.

The president truly dislikes Fox News. Not going on the network is something of a personal stand. During the campaign, he confronted Fox chief Roger Ailes and dressed him down, saying he found Fox’s coverage of him insidious and demonizing.

Ailes told Obama he invited such coverage by continuing to refuse to come on the network. Ailes further told colleagues and his boss—Rupert Murdoch, who was present at the meeting with the future president—that before Ailes was done, the president would be begging for Fox air time.

So far:

Fox News, in its role of extreme opposition to the president and continued, insidious demonization of him, is doing better than it’s ever done. It’s producing a river of cash and great ratings. It’s the shining light—the only shining light—for its parent company, News Corp. What’s more, it has, in many respects, made the far-right opposition real—much of the kooky stuff, the birther business, the death panels, the outbursts at town meetings, is Fox-driven.

These are real hits against the president, but, arguably, he’s weathering them—and well. What’s happened is that Fox has turned the Republican opposition into oddball extremism. It’s potent, and it surely is expressive, but it’s limited. It’s a vivid, but flagging, minority. Their extremism makes the president look so much more middle-of-the-road. Not to mention their right-wing nuttiness means his left-wing nuts have to mostly defend him.

And now:

It is to Fox News’ sure and exclusive advantage that the president is shunning the network. It enhances brand and mission.

The president maximizes his own brand advantage by shunning Fox not just among his faithful, but among Fox’s competitors in the media.

So who bends?

God knows, if the president loses heath care, he might have to do a Fox mea culpa. But if he wins health care, and the mid-terms, Fox is going to start to look really gothic—already advertisers are starting to get the hebegebees—and they’re going to need the president’s approval and normality.

Or they’ll both, Fox and the president, continue, in their disdain, to help define each other.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at You can also follow him on Twitter:
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